seminar series

Social Life of Climate Change

Seminar Series

These research seminars are interdisciplinary discussions around contemporary debates in the humanistic social sciences of climate change and the environment. Events take multiple formats, including standard seminar format as well as more engaged discussions of relevant readings and works in progress.

At present due to the current circumstances, seminars are taking place online via Zoom. The seminars are open to all. If you would like access to any of the upcoming seminars please email

The series is co-sponsored by the Department of Geography and Environment, the Department of Sociology, and the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

It is organised by Dr Kasia Paprocki ( and Dr Austin Zeiderman ( of the Department of Geography and Environment and Dr Rebecca Elliott ( of the Department of Sociology. Please contact Dr Rebecca Elliott with any questions. Updates can be found here.

Michaelmas Term 2020

Professor J. Timmons Roberts, Department of Sociology and Institute at Brown for Environment & Society, Brown University 

Tuesday, 13 October, 1-2:30pmZoom

Please note the Zoom link is passcode-protected. If you would like access to the seminar please email

The New U.S. Climate Battleground: Actors and Coalitions in the States

Gridlock and rollback in Washington has led to a turn to the states for action on climate change in the U.S. The state of Massachusetts presents a particularly puzzling case, since it was an early leader with binding emissions targets, but the succeeding dozen years have seen most ambitious efforts stalled or watered down. We collected 1,187 pieces of legislative testimony, all reported lobbying visits, and input from over fifty experts. We describe the legislative interests, resource mobilization, and framings of the different coalitions engaged in Massachusetts energy politics. We find that clean energy advocates have few staunch allies and face a cohesive coalition of opponents from the real estate, fossil fuel and chemical, and utilities industries. Further, our analysis indicates the central role utilities play in blocking the most ambitious clean energy legislation, and how they remodel those bills that survive the process into forms favorable to their interests.


Professor James R. Elliott, Department of Sociology, Rice University

Tuesday, 10 November, 4-5:30pmZoom

Please note the Zoom link is passcode-protected. If you would like access to the seminar please email

Damages Done: The Long-Term Impacts of Rising Disaster Costs on Wealth Inequality
While climate science warns of long-term impacts that include the increased frequency and cost of natural disasters, social scientists rarely examine the long-term social consequences of such disasters and how we recover from them. This talk fills some of that gap. It begins by shifting disaster research from an event- to a population-centered framework. It then applies the tools of stratification research to a randomized sample of adults followed over fifteen years as natural hazards of varying types and levels of devastation hit the areas where they live. Results indicate that as local property damages from natural hazards increase, so too do inequalities in wealth accumulation over time, especially along the lines of race, education, and homeownership status. And, the more government spends on recovery aid in affected areas, the more those inequalities grow. Implications for theorizing and redressing climate injustices will be discussed.


Professor Veronica Strang, Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University

Tuesday, 1 December, 1-2:30pmZoom

Please note the Zoom link is passcode-protected. If you would like access to the seminar please email

Water Beings: From Nature Worship to the Current Environmental Crisis

Human societies have developed very different trajectories of engagement with their environments over time. Some of these long-term relationships contain more potential for sustainability than others. Early human societies worshipped ‘nature beings’, including water serpent deities who manifested the elemental and generative powers of water. Such beliefs supported collaborative and reciprocal efforts to co-exist respectfully with the non-human world: a form of ‘conviviality’ that maintained highly sustainable lifeways. However, as many societies enlarged, became more hierarchical, and developed more instrumental technologies, they humanised their gods to worship their own rather than non-human powers. This produced ideas about ‘dominion’ over nature that, in prioritising human needs and interests at the expense of all others, have led directly to the current environmental crisis. Focusing on images and objects representing water serpent beings, and exploring what happened to these over time, this seminar draws on the cross-cultural comparison that is central to anthropology, as well as the temporal depth offered by history and archaeology, to ask what we can learn from earlier societies, and from the contemporary indigenous communities who retain traditional beliefs and values. Is there creative scope to incorporate the tenets of more sustainable modes of environmental engagement into contemporary debates about ‘rights for nature’? Can alternate worldviews assist societies in developing less anthropocentric ways of thinking about and engaging with the non-human world? In the face of contemporary realities, how can we re-establish more convivial human-environmental relations?


Past Seminars

Summer Term 2020

Professor Lyla Mehta, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK; Visiting Professor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

June 8 (1-2:30pm U.K. time)

The politics of climate change, uncertainty and transformation in marginal environments


Lent Term 2020

Professor Andrea Nightingale, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo

January 27 (1-2:30pm), Graham Wallas Room

Unruly landscapes of environmental change: imagining a future Himalaya

Professor Miriam Greenberg, Department of Sociology, University of California Santa Cruz

17 February 2020 (1-2:30pm), FAW 9.05

The Housing/Habitat Project: Tracing Impacts of the Affordability Crisis in the Wildlands of Exurban California


Michaelmas Term 2019

Dr Gökçe Günel, Department of Anthropology, Rice University 

21 October (6-7:30pm) 

Book Launch: Spaceship in the Desert

NAB 1.04


Professor Paige West, Department of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University 

4 November (1-2:30pm)

A prayer for the world: Climate change, engaged scholarship and writing the future

Graham Wallas Room


Dr Daniel Aldana Cohen, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

11 November (1-2:30pm)

Follow the Carbon: Housing Movements and Carbon Emissions in the 21st Century City

FAW 9.05


Dr Andrew Curley, Department of Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

2 December (1-2:30pm)

What is a Resource Curse?: Energy, infrastructure, colonialism, and climate change in Native North America

Vera Antsey Room


Summer Term 2019

Dr Nayanika Mathur, Department of School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography, Oxford

13 May, 1-2:30pm

Crooked Cats: Human-Big Cat Entanglements in the Anthropocene

FAW 9.05


Lent Term 2019

Dr Jesse Goldstein, Department of Sociology, Virginia Commonwealth University

4 February, 1-2:30pm

From Planetary Improvement to Energy Abolition: Against and beyond the Transparent Energy of Whiteness

9.05 FAW/Tower 2


Dr Sarah Knuth, Department of Geography, Durham University

4 March, 1-2:30pm

Rentiers of the Green Economy? Placing Rent in Clean Energy Transition

Graham Wallas Room (Old Building)


Professor James McCarthy, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University

18 March, 1-2:30pm

Renewing accumulation? Political economies and ecologies of renewable energy

9.05 FAW / Tower 2


Michaelmas Term 2018

Dr Malini Ranganathan, School of International Service, American University

8 October, 1-2:30pm

From Urban Resilience to Abolitionist Climate Justice in Washington, DC

TW 9.05, Tower 2


Professor Elizabeth Shove, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University

12 November, 1-2:30pm

DEMAND: Exploring the dynamics of energy, mobility and demand

TW 9.05, Tower 2


Dr Megan Black, Department of International History, LSE

3 December, 1-2:30pm

Divided Legacies of the Landsat Satellite: The Origins of a Climate Science Tool in American Mineral Exploits, 1965-1980



Summer Term 2018

Dr Anne Rademacher, Program in Environmental Studies and Department of Anthropology, New York University

2 May, 4:30-6pm

Building Green: Forging Environmental Futures in Mumbai

TW 9.04, Tower 2


Dr Liz Koslov, Comparative Media Studies, MIT

4 June, 4:30-6pm

The Fight for Retreat: Urban Unbuilding in the Era of Climate Change

KSW, G.01